In a deal approved in March, Saint Francis Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., which is owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp., is about to build the only hospital in Bartlett, Tenn., northeast of Memphis. And its nearby competitors aren't pleased.
Bartlett, in the heart of Shelby County, has experienced explosive population and industrial growth. During the 1970s its population increased 1,400% through growth and annexation, reaching 17,300 by 1980. Today Bartlett's population is 37,630, largely because of the presence of mega-employers such as the distribution and manufacturing plants of Brother Industries USA and Kroger Co.
It wasn't until the early '80s that Bartlett's mayor, Bobby Flaherty, began developing the city's first industrial park. Before that, Bartlett had been a bedroom community, said Charles Goforth, the city's director of planning and economic development.
Goforth, who has watched the city become the 12th largest in Tennessee, campaigned heavily to expand Saint Francis into Bartlett. "We are the only larger-scale city in Tennessee without a hospital. The closest facility is three or four miles west, Methodist Healthcare-North Hospital in Memphis," Goforth said. That distance may not seem like much, but it becomes a problem when Methodist-North's emergency room is closed half the time because of overutilization, he added. Methodist North is part of Memphis-based Methodist Healthcare, which has 12 hospitals in Tennessee and three in Mississippi.
David Archer, chief executive officer of 559-bed Saint Francis, said he couldn't be happier with the expansion. The hospital will not only place healthcare at the community's fingertips but also will add as many as 400 jobs. The $55 million project, which was approved in March, is expected to be completed in December 2000.
The project will shift 90 beds from Saint Francis and will include an emergency room, operating rooms and a magnetic resonance imaging unit.
Saint Francis also had filed a certificate of need for an outpatient surgical center in Collierville, Tenn., but that request was denied.
Meanwhile, competitor Methodist North argued that Saint Francis' expansion into Bartlett would duplicate services.
Methodist North recently began constructing a physician office building, reconfiguring its emergency room and transferring 26 beds from the Methodist Central campus. Its CON was approved last May, and the project is scheduled for completion in April 1999 at a cost of $13 million.
"We strongly opposed Saint Francis' certificate of need, but because of community support and unanimous agreement from the Tennessee Health Facilities Commission, we decided not to appeal but to compete," said Gary Shorb, president and chief operating officer of Methodist Healthcare.
Part of the problem at Methodist North was that it didn't have enough inpatient beds, which caused backups in the emergency room, he added.
Shorb said he recognizes the battle in Shelby County and that the hospital will have to work harder through customer service and pricing to grab market share.
The other Goliath in Memphis, 1,112-bed Baptist Memorial Hospital, is feeling the sting as well. Baptist Memorial East, the closest campus to Bartlett, and Baptist Memorial Health Care Medical Center in midtown Memphis filed CONs for renovation and expansion, which were approved along with those of Saint Francis and Methodist North.
Known as Baptist Metro 2000, the project will modify facilities at the midtown and east campuses. It includes an expansion of its Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven, Miss., as well as the new Collierville facility. Baptist will have a total of four campuses.
This will be the most expensive healthcare renovation project in the state of Tennessee, topping nearly $400 million, Baptist officials said.
Baptist Memorial Hospital East, another facility with a chronically overbooked emergency room, will add 302 acute-care licensed beds, which will be relocated from the midtown location.
In addition, a women's hospital and a physician office complex will be built adjacent to the current site. A cardiac hospital also will be added to Baptist Memorial East. The project is expected to be completed within the next few years.
The midtown campus will combine the medical center and the newly acquired St. Joseph Hospital in a new-state-of-the-art nine-story building next to the existing physician office buildings on the campus. This campus will include skilled-nursing beds, obstetrical services, a new emergency department, convenient parking and space for a future wellness center.
The plans for Baptist's medical center and east locations are a response to population growth, demographic shifts and changing healthcare needs in the greater Memphis area, says Stephen Reynolds, president and CEO of Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corp., which has 14 hospitals.